London Mayor Boris Johnson launched the Transport for London bike rental scheme in July 2010 and in the first year 120,000 people have become subscribers, more than five million journeys have been made and about 25,000 trips are completed every day.
If you’d like to know how the system works just watch this quick video. You can also get help with route planning here. However, if you are less interested in getting straight from A to B, and more inclined to take a pleasant ride though some of the most fascinating and scenic parts of the city, here are our personal favourites, plus links to a couple of others for good measure.
Limehouse to Little Venice
The very best ride in London, I believe, is the route from Limehouse, just up river from Canary Wharf, to Little Venice in lovely Maida Vale. The best thing about it is the lack of traffic – you’re cycling westwards along the old tow path of the picturesque Regents Canal. The ride is flat, 8 miles long, and will take you about one and a half hours to complete. Having said that, there’s so much to enjoy along the way that you could make this trip last all day!
You start at Limehouse Basin, where the canal meets the Thames. An area rich in history, there’s now plenty of splendid modern architecture to admire, as well as a Hawksmoor church (St Anne’s) and plenty of impressive yachts in the marina. Soon you’ll arrive at Mile End Park where you can have a freshener at the eccentric 1950s throwback pub the Palm Tree (Haverfield Road, E3 5BH).
If you fancy a little detour the boot-shaped Victoria Park lies just beyond the entrance to the Hertford Union Canal (aka Duckett’s Cut). The Old Ford Lock is where canal boaters traditionally changed horses but your bike doesn’t need the same care and attention so carry on straight to the Hackney Gasworks.
Soon you get to the City Road Basin, once the largest trading centre along Regent’s Canal. You could stop for a pint at the impressive Island Queen pub around the corner (87 Noel Road, N1 8HD). There’s also the Canal Museum, or you could explore Camley Street Natural Park for some peace and quiet.
Once past Camden Town, where you can spend a few hours browsing the stalls at the famous Camden Lock Market. Next you come to the huge green expanse of Regent’s Park, and London Zoo. You could also take a short detour up to Primrose Hill for a spectacular view of the city. The cycle path skirts around the north of the Regent’s Park and then it’s on to Little Venice, where the Regent’s Canal ends and the Grand Union Canal begins. To celebrate completing your leisurely ride head for the kitsch theatre pub the Bridge House (13 Westbourne Terrace Road, W2 6NG), the fabulously ornate Prince Alfred and Formosa Dining Rooms (54 Formosa Street, W9 1EE) or the Warrington Hotel (93 Warrington Crescent, W9 1EH), a popular haunt of ageing pop stars that’s part of the Gordon Ramsay empire.
Tower Bridge to Albert Bridge
This ride takes you up the river, through the very centre of the capital, with stunning vistas unfolding on either bank as you take in the ten bridges of London Town. You can find details of this ride here.
Westminster to Kew Gardens
This route also follows the river, but takes you further upstream. You go from Big Ben and the London Eye, past the Tate Britain and the Iconic Battersea Power Station to world famous Kew Gardens. You can find details of this ride here.